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Fearless creativity

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

Toning a large canvas in preparation for a new painting

You know the feeling. You have an idea for a new creative project. You're excited, electrified by it. You dream about how it will turn out. You go and get all of the supplies you need. You block out time in your schedule to make it happen. And then...

Paralysis. Everything is ready to go, but you can't bring yourself to get started. Suddenly the big idea you have comes up against the reality of actually making it happen, and you are consumed with fear. What if it's a huge failure? What if it is a total waste of time? What if you aren't skilled enough to make it happen?

I feel this way whenever I start a new ambitious project that is out of my comfort zone. Painting larger than ever before, painting new subject matter, painting a more complicated composition. All of these inspire fear. I would buy a large canvas to start a new painting and it would sit in the corner of my studio for months collecting dust while I nervously bit my nails and procrastinated, waiting for the day when I would feel "confident enough" or "skilled enough" to finally do it.

"Ramen Shop," 24in x 36in oil on canvas. A painting that took me years to complete due to its size and complexity.

For so much of my life, I've let this fear rule me, working on small projects in my comfort zone but not venturing further into the realm of big ideas. I let my fear convince me to stay small, where I knew it was safe.

Then I learned about the story of Mark-André Leclerc. He was a young Canadian mountain climber who accomplished incredible feats of climbing. Mark-André would free solo his ascents, climbing incredibly treacherous routes without rope. And unlike the other climbers who free solo, he wouldn't practice the route in advance, but instead do it on his first try. Mark-André would look at a mountain, study the route, and just go.

I was so inspired by this climber. He was a clear example of living fearlessly. He was literally putting his life on the line each day for his passion. I reexamined my own fear. What was I so afraid of? Unlike Mark-André, my passion wasn't asking me to risk my life. My risk looked like nothing compared to his. If Mark-André made a mistake, he could die. If I made a mistake, what was the worst that could happen? Maybe I would make a bad painting, that's all. And even in that case, it wouldn't be a total loss because even bad paintings teach me something.

Now, whenever I am starting a new, ambitious project, I think of Mark-André and refuse to let my fear rule me. Instead, I recognize it, acknowledge it, and remind it that if I make a bad painting, that's okay. I ask it to kindly step aside and let inspiration take the wheel. And I get to work.

"Remove the Barriers," 36in x 36in oil on canvas

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